Trying search tools besides Google is one of the ideas that I feature in Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know. Wolfram Alpha is one of those alternatives to Google that I frequently mention to teachers and students. Wolfram Alpha is best known as a computational search engine that can help students with questions related to math and science. What’s often overlooked about Wolfram Alpha is its utility for social studies teachers and students.
Wolfram Alpha is quite useful in providing students with quick fact sheets about people and places. Additionally, Wolfram Alpha can provide students with side-by-side comparisons of two or more people or two or more places. Those options are more are featured in this short video.
Applications for Education
In the video above I highlighted the graph of Wikipedia hits for topics searched in Wolfram Alpha. As mentioned in the video, this graph could be the starting point for some quick, in-class research into what was happening in the world to cause a spike in interest in a topic and the corresponding spike in Wikipedia traffic for that topic.